With the collective deep-dive analyses into the types of work environments that allowed predatory behavior exhibited by people such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and more to thrive, the next major course of action must be centered on dismantling the systems that have protected these men. With the #MeToo movement allowing more victims to come forward and be supported by many other voices, we should also keep in mind there are still a number of people in various industries that don’t necessarily have the same means of speaking out.
And as seen in the case of former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, whose blog post about the toxic culture of harassment at the company which went viral, sometimes even reporting incidents of harassment to HR can prove to be detrimental. But a new app is now aiming to change the status quo by giving employees a way to share their experiences and grievances with other employees anonymously, democratizing the workplace power balance.
Blind is the name of the app, utilizing technology to be part of the solution to weed out sexual harassment culture at work. Available on iTunes and Google Play, it allows users to type in the name of their company to find out if there are existing conversations about harassment, and offers a community feature where users can discuss topics such as the wage gap, promotions, negotiating salaries, and more.
So far the app has found specific ways its service is helping people, showing how allowing users to remain anonymous is more likely to result in them speaking out and potentially coming forward eventually. Blind surveyed more than 3,000 users, asking them if they felt comfortable going to HR to report sexual harassment, and the results are quite eye-opening. Overall, a whopping 42.76% of employees responded that they do not feel comfortable. That number should concern any company looking to weed out sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The fear of retaliation at work is cited as one major reason why some refuse to speak out. Last year, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handled over 42,000 charges of employer retaliation, making it the top reason of complaints.
Several posts from Blind users have detailed the distrust so many employees have with going to the HR in their company in the “Topic” section of Blind, which is viewable on the web. Perhaps it is best highlighted in this post “PSA: HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.” This is just one of the many reasons anonymity is important for users. Users have also used Blind to anonymously post about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Below, are just two examples of posts about sexual harassment in the workplace from Blind users (along with responses):
“Anyone else experience sexual harassment, assault, misconduct at Deloitte? I was ‘Weinsteined’ by a Partner in NYC and am looking for others who’ve experienced the same. Partner I met on a business trip tried to rape me. I fought back. I’m athletic and he was a fat old slob, so I got away. I fear other women may not be as lucky, especially if he’s their boss.”
Cisco employee: “From a manager while eating lunch in the break room: “May I ask you a question? Are your breasts real? Because, wow!”
Uber employee: “Yes, I would get cat calls every time I came into work.”
Amazon Engineer: “Had to change teams at Amazon because of a guy who seemed like he can’t handle having a woman engineer on the team, undermining me at every step. Talked to the manager, who suggested that I move.”
Former Microsoft employee: “At Microsoft, yes. It was humiliating and it cost me my career, my home, my savings, my dignity. I lost everything and the moment I regret the most is when i went to HR to complain about the sexual predator, harassment and abuse i was experiencing. HR turned on me and not only allowed the abuse to continue, but blamed me and fired me.”
A report on Buzzfeed outlining the grievances many have with their HR departments, especially in the tech world, show how in some workplaces the department becomes a key component in maintaining the status quo of a landscape that thrives on belittling, intimidating, and harassing employees. One example came from a woman named Jen who worked at a tech company on the East Coast said her industry hasn’t done nearly enough to eliminate the root problem.
“I think HR is worse in tech because everyone is looking to make a quick buck. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the next Facebook or Microsoft or Apple. Everyone is trying so hard to be famous and rich, they’re not willing to think about the details in creating a quality culture,” she said.
The New York Times describes the “women’s whisper networks” as the almost unspoken collective of voices that is now gaining enough momentum and strength to start making a noise. It is a tipping point in our society that has been a long time coming, and if technology can aid this movement in the form of an app such as Blind, we will take every method that works.
You can download the app on iTunes or Google Play, and visit the website to learn more about Blind and the conversations being had within this digital community.